The Skip-Bo Queen
Trip Start Jan 08, 2010
45Trip End Sep 27, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings we set up a café type thing in a room of the Salvo Emergency (single night) shelter called Cross-Walk. Recreate has been running for several years now and started off with some 614 people taking coffee over to one of the more renowned squats in the area. When it took off, they moved it into the shelter. It’s a place where people who live in the area can come and have a coffee and cake and sit and relax. We realised in our first week how important a nice place to go and sit must be to some of the people around here. When we were settling in to The Empress it was great (and still is) to get away from it to other people’s places or to a café or something
We have met some great people at Recreate. Pete plays chess with a few of the regulars (and wants it known that he usually wins). There is one guy who really doesn’t like getting beaten and when Pete wins he gets cursed at and accused of cheating. He takes it on the chin though and plays again whenever the guy wants to. We also play Skip-Bo sometimes, which is a card game we hadn’t heard of until coming here. It is kind of like a more complicated Uno. The other day we played with a lady (the self-proclaimed "Skip-Bo Queen") whose mind and body has been ruined by drugs to the point where she constantly thrashes around involuntarily and has some trouble talking. We were very surprised to find that even though to a passer-by she would seem totally out of it, she was able to follow the game and even help us out when we didn’t know what to do. It was a hilarious game actually, she wanted to help us out so much that it became more like a game of Go Fish with us giving each other the cards needed to keep the game going
At Recreate Pete met a Sudanese guy who has been homeless for a while. He had to flee Sudan after being tortured and came to Canada as a refugee. He worked for 17 years in a kitchen here and then got laid off when the work dried up. He has been homeless ever since and has to line up every night at the Emergency Shelter to get a roof over his head. He still applies for jobs when he finds them, but if you have no phone number and no fixed address, no employer is going to take the risk of hiring you. There is a program run here called H.A.V.E (hope, action, values, ethics) which is an 8 week culinary school for hard-to-employ people. They train them up and then find them a job after the 8 weeks. When Pete suggested this as an idea to find work, the guy jumped at the chance. He starts tomorrow. We are hoping and praying that it all works out for him. The lady running HAVE said that because of his previous experience he might not even have to do the full 8 weeks. This guy is a really solid Christian as well. When Pete asked “how have you managed to keep you faith after all you’ve been through” he said “why would I throw away the only thing I have left?”. He still relies on God even though times are tough and he actually counts himself lucky to be in Canada even though he is on the streets. One time he said to Pete that he doesn’t know what everyone’s problem is, it’s not as bad as Africa! He must have a pretty tough spirit. The other amazing thing is that even though he lives in the area, he isn’t on anything and he manages to keep immaculately clean. He’s very educated and speaks excellent English. We’re really lucky to have met such an inspirational person with such a warm smile
We have spent a lot of this week at the White’s house. Aaron and Cherie White are two of the leaders here who sold up and moved into the area to live and bring up their 4 kids in the Downtown Eastside. People have called them crazy, but it’s working out pretty well for them. Their kids are great and their house has an open door and open fridge policy. They are in an apartment building so you need to get buzzed in, but when you’re in you can spend as much time as you like there and eat anything you want. It’s great. Aaron has been away this week running a teen camp, so we have been over there helping Cherie out with the kids. Cherie is fantastic to be around and she invited us to go with her and the kids on an outing to Granville Island (not really an island). There are lots of artists studios there as well as a market and kids’ water park. It was a fun day, nice and hot and the kids had a great time at the water park.
They also have community dinners there every night. Both Aaron and Cherie hate cooking and love having people around, so each night someone from the community cooks for the family, themselves and several guests from around the place (the Whites pay). It works really well, eating as a community is very important; a bunch of people get to spend time together over a good meal, people who have no cooking facilities get to cook or enjoy a home-cooked meal, and Aaron and Cherie get to share their house and family with those who have neither. We cooked the other night and will be doing it again tomorrow night. Last Monday Alan (who we have written about before) was on cooking. He started at 1:30pm and cooked until 5:30 to feed a big group who were coming. He made masses of food…and the people never showed up
We spend most of our time out of The Empress and in other people’s houses or out doing something. I think we said it before, but it feels like each house (they’re all group or family houses) is an extension of our own. It feels like home when sitting on the White’s couch or anyone else’s and we are free to eat or use the shower or the computer or whatever we need at any of the houses. There's a girl here called Jess who is of Finnish descent. The cookbook I bought in Sweden has some Finnish recipes in it so we spent last night baking together at her place. We made a very tasty Almond & Caramel Torte which I have just finished off.
Now that the weather is warmer, we have our first mouse in our house. We have been hoping that we wouldn’t get any rats or mice (or fleas, bedbugs, lice, cockroaches etc.), and we thought it would be the worst possible thing to have a mouse or something take up residence. Now that it’s happened though, we just shrugged and said “well at least it’s not a rat”. Funny how standards change and you end up being able to cope with more than originally thought
Jonathan, Carla and their 3 kids are off on holidays this week and they offered us their place to squat in while they’re gone! Yay! I’m sitting on a comfy couch at the moment and we had a bunch of people over today to watch the soccer final. It is a bit of a treat to be able to access food, bed, shower and washing machine all in the one place instead of going to 4 different places separated by several blocks! I’ve done 3 loads of washing already! Most of it actually belongs to this house though; we thought we would do some chores for them since it’s not nice to come home from a holiday and have to catch up on laundry and cleaning.
We’ve come to realise that luxury and joy are relative things. If we had come to this apartment straight from Australia, we would have considered it nice and comfortable. But coming from The Empress it feels like a luxury hotel! We can also get a lot of joy out of very little things, like not having to wear thongs in the shower or the fact that we don’t have bedbugs yet. (Earlier this week we found poo in the communal shower at The Empress, needless to say, I took a shower at a friend’s place that day). Who would have thought it’s not the thing or activity itself that brings the joy or comfort, it’s all relative to where you are coming from, what you already have and what you are used to.
Well, enough of Myf’s deep thoughts on life,
Thanks for reading!